Art in the Commons


Session Title:

  • Practices and Poetics of Urban Media Art in the Shadows of the Illuminated City

Presentation Title:

  • Art in the Commons




  • In 2018, the world of commercial art has a renewed talent for making headlines. From its self-shredding canvases (Banksy) to record-high prices for works by living (Jenny Saville, David Hockney) and non human (Obvious) artists alike. Often we accept an idea of the ‘art world’ as private collectors and those artworks which disappear into their off-shore storage facilities. We must aim to re-capture the term ‘art world’ for art which exists in the space which we call the world.

    Art which takes place in the world of the public commons is without the context of the gallery and largely without the consent of the viewer. It must physically cope with unexpected weather, issues of public safety and negotiate a highly democratic reaction. These works participate in the identity and memory of the city, such as in Jeremy Deller’s “Procession” which recycles tradition into something relevant and powerful for today, and create new living monuments such as with Ryoji Ikeda’s “Spectra” which creates a tower of light in the city skyline, whilst extending eternally into outer space.

    In Korea, Permanent public works in the city are often commissioned through the 심의 (Shim-eui) judgement process which is famously troubled with non-artistic intentions, perhaps evidenced by a set of problematic examples of public art in the city today. The confusion of ‘what is public art?’ in Seoul is highlighted by the 400 million KRW publicly commissioned golden Gangnam Style artwork outside the COEX complex, contrasting with the citizen-rejected Shoes Tree of 2017’s Seoullo opening. This talk will aim to consolidate these issues and demonstrate new artistic acts which cannot be collected, but belong to the space of the city itself.